Fall 2000

Vol.5 – No.2

November is National Adoption Month

Of the more than 520,000 children currently in the U.S. foster care system, an estimated 116,000 children now wait for permanent adoptive families. November has been designated National Adoption Month to focus national attention on the increasing number of children who need families. Many of these children have special needs and require the security and stability of an adoptive family to develop their full potential. Administration efforts are directed to finding safe and permanent families for these children in a timely manner. For further information, see Fosterlove.com, and “Look Who’s Adopted!” at the Legalsurvival.com bookstore.

Legal Q and A

Test your legal knowledge. See how many of the following questions you can answer:

  • Can a college deny gay couples housing that is provided for married students?
  • Is a father liable for medical fees for an abortion performed on his 20-year-old daughter?
  • Can the results of a drunk driver’s blood test be used if he objects to the test because of his fear of needles and contracting HIV?
  • Are real estate agents required to inform homebuyers that a convicted child molester lives in the neighborhood?
  • Must a wife spend down a substantial portion of her assets before she can qualify for an award of attorney’s fees from her husband?
  • Can an auto accident victim sue for psychological injuries?
  • To check your answers, see the Summer 2000 issue of the Legalsurvival.com Newsletter.

What’s New at Legalsurvival.com?

Legalsurvival.com is one of the most popular web sites (top 6 percent). It is rated significantly higher in popularity than Westlaw.com, ATLA.org, Uslaw.com, LawyersWeekly.com, and Lawoffice.com. Legalsurvival.com has over 900 pages of free information on 30 topics. Legalsurvival.com has received over 56 awards and honorable mentions, including USA Today, Fortune Magazine, NBC, New York Law Journal, American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, PC Magazine, Smart Computing Magazine, American Bar Association, New York State Bar Association, Bar Association of Erie County, Texas Bar Association, Martindale-Hubbell, Georgetown University Law School, Dallas Bar Association and Startingpoint.com. Recently added topics include: Labor/Employment Law, Environmental Law, Banking Law, Insurance, Immigration, Tax, Toxic Tort, White Collar Crime and Immigration.

Landlord Seminar

“How to Survive Legally as a Landlord” will be presented by attorney/author Robert Friedman from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6, 2001 at Clarence Middle School, 10150 Greiner Road, Clarence, New York. Mr. Friedman will discuss evictions, leases, Small Claims Court, discrimination laws, civil liability, insurance, security deposits, elderly tenants, drug, debt collection and lead paint regulations. There is a registration and book fee. To register, call (716) 759-8331.

What’s New in Consumer Law?

Consumer leasing law violated by not disclosing early termination penalty. Consumers who entered into closed-end automobile leases knew that they would face penalties for early termination, but they didn’t know how much. Some customers were penalized thousands of dollars for early termination. However, the leasing company was unable to explain how the charges were computed. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, ruled that “an early-termination clause that fails to reveal an otherwise unknowable variable used in determining an early-termination penalty cannot be regarded as reasonably understandable in any meaningful sense of the term”.

What’s New in Small Business Law?

A jury can infer that an employee was fired for alcoholism. An employee was terminated a week or two after he told his supervisor that he was an alcoholic. He sued claiming that he was discriminated against due to his disability. The employer claimed that the firing was due to budget cuts and reallocation. It argued that the employee was required to introduce independent evidence of discrimination in order to establish a case of disability discrimination. However, the New York court ruled that, “the evidence that the Plaintiff was disabled, or regarded/perceived as disabled, together with evidence that the Plaintiff, an employee with an unblemished record of promotions, was discharged almost immediately after his disability of alcoholism became known to the Defendant, sufficiently established that the discharge occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of disability discrimination.”

What’s New in Real Estate Law?

Handwritten notations on real estate contract override the standard form language. Homebuyers discovered that their house had sustained structural damage as a result of a large termite infestation. They sued the seller for violating the property disclosure and state consumer protection acts. The standard contract used by the seller indicated that the house was free of termites. However, handwritten notes on the contract stated that the buyer agreed to buy the house “as is” and that the seller was a nonresident owner who had no knowledge of the condition of the property. The Virginia court dismissed the suit, ruling that handwritten notes preempted the wording of the standard contract.

What’s New in Landlord/Tenant Law?

Landlord sued for giving away tenant’s belongings. When the tenant failed to pay rent, the landlord put the tenant’s belongings, including photographs, journals and family Bible, on the street with a sign that said, “Free Take”. The tenant sued for emotional distress caused by the landlord’s conduct. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that “although photographs and other memorabilia may have little market value, they often have great sentimental and emotional value to a particular person. The loss of the sentimental and emotional value attached to a particular piece of lost or damaged property may result in emotional distress not accounted for by reference to its market value. Consequently, at least where compensation is sought for the intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, sentimental and emotional value of lost or damaged property may be considered in measuring damages”. The court cited similar rulings from Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana and Washington.

What’s New in Divorce/Family Law?

Ex-wife and her lover sued for emotional distress. The Plaintiff’s wife became pregnant during an affair. She told her lover that although she wasn’t sure who the father was, she was going to raise her baby as her husband’s child. She divorced her husband when her child was one year old at which time he learned that he was not the child’s biological father. The Plaintiff sued his ex-wife and her lover alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. He requested compensatory and punitive damages. The Defendants moved for dismissal arguing that the Plaintiff was really claiming “alienation of affection”, which has been abolished in Ohio. However, the Ohio Court of Appeals held that because the Plaintiff’s claim was based on the trauma of discovering that he was not the father, rather than on the fact that his wife was an adulterer, the suit was not an “alienation of affection” claim.

What’s New in DWI/Traffic Law?

Field sobriety test invalidated. A police officer who did not strictly follow National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing procedures for roadside sobriety tests cannot use the results to show probable cause. The NHTSA manual has detailed rules for pre-roadside tests: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), one-leg stand and walk-the-line a/k/a “walk and turn” and “heal-to-toe”. The police officer stopped the driver after observing her swerving into another lane. He noticed that her eyes were “red and glassy” and her breath smelled of alcohol. He then conducted the three field sobriety tests detailed in the manual. He spent only one to two seconds on the HGN test, as opposed to the recommended four seconds. The walk-and-turn test was performed on uneven, gravel covered ground rather than the required flat surface. The prosecution argued that the tests were admissible to show probable cause because the officer had substantially complied with the testing requirements. However, the court ruled that “the small margins of error that characterized field sobriety tests make strict compliance critical. It is well established that, even minor deviations from the standardized procedures, can severely bias the result.

What’s New in Municipal Law?

Local governments can’t zone out religious groups. Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, local governments cannot impose a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or an institution. The government has the burden to prove a compelling government interest. The law applies to any zoning regulation that:

  • Affects any religious program that receives federal assistance;
  • Affects interstate or foreign commerce;
  • Uses certain procedures for individualized assessments of the proposed use of the property;
  • Discriminates against a religious group; or
  • Excludes or unfairly limits a religious group within a certain jurisdiction.

Injured Victims’ Rights

The Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. Ten Point Pledge to Accident/Injury Clients is:

  • To communicate with you in plain language that is easy to understand.
  • To promptly return your telephone calls.
  • To quickly and thoroughly investigate and analyze your case. Friedman & Ranzenhofer, P.C. does not accept every accident case.
  • To have your case personally handled by an attorney.
  • To keep you informed of the progress of your case at all times.
  • To show you the personal care, concern and attention which has been the hallmark of our law firm since 1955.
  • To not handle your case in an “assembly line” fashion.
  • To accommodate the needs of you and your family during the handling of your case.
  • To vigorously protect your legal rights.
  • To never release your name to the media after your case has been completed, except with your written permission.

Attorney Michael H. Ranzenhofer limits his practice to automobile accident, slip and fall, dog bite and defective product cases. He is a member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the Western New York Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association and the Erie County Bar Association Negligence Committee.

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